Some had hoped that President-elect Donald Trump, who was once involved in the casino industry, would be a positive development for gambling in the US eventually.
But if his pick for Attorney General, US Sen. Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate, it could mean bad news for New Jersey online gambling. That revelation came after his comments during a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
What Sessions said on online gambling
Sessions was fielding questions on a variety of issues. But one question and answer in particular should have gotten the attention of people in New Jersey.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has long been an opponent of online gambling, asked Sessions about his thoughts on the Wire Act, and a Department of Justice opinion in 2011 that limited that law’s reach to sports betting. That opinion basically allowed states to legalize and regulate online gambling if they so choose. So far, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have done so.
(Graham did the same thing with current AG Loretta Lynch. Graham has also been a supporter of legislation that would redefine the Wire Act to cover online gambling.)
Here is what Sessions said about the opinion and the fact that it didn’t apply to iGaming, per Online Poker Report:
“I did oppose [the 2011 DOJ opinion] when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual,” Sessions said during the hearing. “I would revisit it or make a decision about it based on careful study. I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.”
Sessions vs. NJ online gambling?
If Sessions were to roll back the 2011 Wire Act opinion, it would certainly not be a positive development for New Jersey. It would basically mean New Jersey’s online gambling industry would be on shakier legal ground, and the state would probably seek a legal injunction via the courts.
It’s not clear if Sessions intends to overturn the opinion, or even revisit it, outside of the context of the confirmation hearing. But it is a possibility.
NJ would likely fight a rollback of the Wire Act
Online gambling an industry that creates more than $100 million in revenue for Atlantic City casinos, and tax revenue for the state in turn. It’s not something the state would give up without a fight.
The state is already fighting the federal government on the issue of sports betting, as the DOJ is a plaintiff in that case along with the NCAA and pro sports leagues. That case is being appealed to the US Supreme Court.
So while Sessions’ comments on online gambling should be concerning to proponents of iGaming in New Jersey, it’s not the end of the online gambling world. At least not yet.